Student assistants protesting at a CSU Trustee's meeting

CSU student workers begin bargaining

By Aaron Coloma, April 30, 2024

Student assistants across the California State University system have started the bargaining process on their union contract which will lay out the rights of student assistants and address working conditions, including improved pay, paid sick time and affordable parking. 

Feb. 23, 97% of voters upheld the decision to unionize with the CSU employee’s union. After this victory, the union consisting of students from all 23 CSU campuses became the largest undergraduate union in the country with more than 20,000 members.

The vote concluded a 10 monthlong journey toward unionizing, which began April 17, 2023, when student assistants submitted more than 4,000 union cards to the California Public Employment Relations Board.

The CSU classifies student assistants as students who perform duties ranging from unskilled to skilled and/or specialized, in a variety of positions that typically require the use of manual, clerical, public contact and/or analytical skills.

CPP employed the 10th most students system-wide in the fall 2023 semester, with 379 student workers.

As a union, student assistants are able to represent themselves in decisions which affect their jobs and collectively bargain with their employers for better working conditions, wages and benefits. CSUEU Chief Communication Officer Khanh Weinberg, expressed why a contract is important.

“A good contract for student workers also benefits the CSU as a whole because valued workers bring their best to their jobs,” said Weinberg.

Weinberg stated the union is a necessity for students to gain equal footing when fighting for their comfortability in the workplace.

“In any place of employment, the power distribution is so unbalanced,” said Weinberg. “You have one worker against the employer who holds all the cards, all the power and sets wages and terms of working conditions unilaterally. Having formed this union for themselves, they are bringing power to themselves. They’re empowering themselves so it’s not just one worker negotiating against the Office of the Chancellor, it’s one worker and 20,000 other student assistants coming together with one collective voice.”

Tori Umeda, CSUEU intern and ethnic and women’s studies student at CPP, spoke about her previous experiences working on campus, and how she and her coworkers felt unheard and underappreciated.

“What I would like to see would be that we have workplaces that are more collaborative and more understanding to the students’ needs,” said Umeda. “A lot of us are juggling jobs and a full-time class schedule, so I just think the people running these organizations on campus should be aware of that and take it into consideration.”

The student assistants’ first act as unionized workers came March 26, when CSUEU bargaining team member and Cal State Fullerton student assistant Theresa Limbeek addressed the Board of Trustees on behalf of the union. The bargaining team is a group of 10 students from across the CSU system who have the power to sit down with administration to discuss the terms of bargaining agreements. During the speech, Limbeek covered the primary issues of pay, sick time and parking affordability.

“We hope to have your support for a fair contract that recognizes the value of our work,” said Limbeek during their speech. “We hope you will live up to your mission of providing opportunities for students to build a better future for ourselves and our communities.”

Limbeek also attended CSUEU Lobby Day April 16, where they asked for legislators’ support in bargaining for student assistants’ first contract with the CSU.

With the current CSUEU collective bargaining agreement expiring June 30, Umeda expressed excitement and hope for what is to come.

“We all were very happy, and now that we’re in the next phase of trying to get a contract, I definitely hope that more good things are gonna come out of this,” said Umeda.

Students can stay up to date on the union and bargaining progressions on the CSUEU website.

Feature image courtesy of Khanh Weinberg 

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